Ministering With Those Who are Grieving
When a person is experiencing or has recently experienced a trauma in his or her present life, using TPM may have its limitations for several reasons. In comparison, when dealing with a childhood memory, the resident pain is no longer about the event itself, but about what is believed in the event. The emotional pain that has come forward is not about the event, but rather the lie that is harbored in the event. However, with a current present-tense trauma there is an element of truth-based pain that is occurring that is a part of the experience itself. Lie-based pain can be dealt with at any juncture along the way, whereas truth-based pain requires my willingness to let it go and allow the Lord carry it. When a trauma occurs, letting go of the truth-based pain that is not so easy.
There are many factors involved here. For example, if a parent discovers that a child has been killed by a drunk driver, the immediate response of shock, denial and anguish are all an expected and natural reaction. The weeks and months to follow of grieving, feeling angry, moving in and out of denial are all a part of the letting go process. There is a season to grieve. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes says, "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance…" (3:1-4). I believe that there is an expected time of grief, trauma, shock and distress that follows a loss or any other bad experience. However, I also believe that the Lord may choose to reveal His perspective to the heart of the person in the moment as well. In the same way the enemy will seek to plant seeds of deception in the fertile soil of grief, I believe the Lord is willing to provide His perspective to those who will turn to Him and listen.
I was talking with a woman one day about a loss that she had recently experienced. She was saying to me how she was having suicidal thoughts herself due to the deep pain she was feeling. Here the enemy had already planted his deception. I asked her what it was she believed that suicide was offering a solution. She said, "I just do not believe that I can ever be happy again." I asked her if she would be willing to offer this thinking up to the Lord and listen to see what He might want her to know concerning this. She was willing and she heard truth from Him. She continued to grieve in truth, but the suicidal thinking stopped.
When my daughter died of a brain aneurism back in 1986, I was grief stricken. I agonized to the point of physical exhaustion. This was real grief that was expected. At that time I did not have the Theophostic tool to benefit me during the time of her death. I did have the knowledge of the basic steps of grief and what I should expect to experience during the 12-14 months that followed her death. Sharon and I passed through these predictable stages just as I had been taught. However, what was surprising was that ten years later when she and I revisited the memory of Sarah's death, up came a rush of the same deep pain that we thought we had already "worked through." I now realized that for me the steps of grief were actually steps of suppression. It had taken me about 24 months to successfully bury the pain through suppression. Sharon and I both submitted each to our own personal ministry around this formerly suppressed but emerging pain. However, we were also met by the Lord in the midst of this pain and received His truth. When this occurred ALL the suppressed pain was resolved. (Note: When I read where people are seeking to discredit this ministry approach all I have to do is think about my daughter's death and know that once I was "blind" (in deep pain) but now I can "see" (can find NO feelings of sadness, loss or grief). Where Sharon and I had experienced a predictable yearly wave of depression and grief during the anniversary week of her death (that we called the Sarah week), this wave just never materialized again following the ministry we received. So we know that TPM has great results on grief 10 years after the fact. However, what would have happened had we received ministry closer to the actual death experience? I cannot say personally for that time is passed. However, my experience with others has been very positive.
I had an opportunity to do ministry with a woman whose daughter was killed in an automobile accident four months before her session with me. She wanted to do TPM to see if there would be any release of the deep pain she faced each day. After one session she reported peace where there had been pain. We followed up a second visit and she received additional resolution. Based upon what she told me the pain that had filled the memory of her daughter's death was completely resolved and years later she says it never returned. Since the inception of this ministry, I have never heard of any person reporting lie-based pain returning to a memory where the Lord brought truth. It is common for people to have more pain from other lies still needing to be addressed (I have been working on mine for 12 years now with TPM), but I have never heard of any person reporting a lie returning with its pain, once it was dispelled from a memory where they found truth and peace. This is significant since there are tens of thousands of people receiving ministry out there.
The question is, how long after a traumatic event or loss should we wait before doing TPM with a person? My thinking is this. We can minister immediately with a person by coming alongside of the person with prayer, comfort and encouragement and not do TPM. The worst thing people tend to do is to try to theologically talk a person out of their bad feelings by saying things such as "He is in a better place," "God just needed another angel in heaven" (as though angels were people), or "There is a greater good here that you just cannot see this side of heaven." Some of this is sound theology, but still does little good. Some of the most comforting words I heard during my grief came from people who had children that had died. They said things to me such as, "It will hurt really badly for a while but you really will get through this," or "I really cannot say anything to take your pain away, but I do know what it feels like." The passage above goes on to say there is a "time to be silent and a time to speak" (verse 4). Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. There is great value in doing like Job's friends who "sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great" (Job 2:13). In this context we can invite the person to look to Jesus and listen. People do not always have the thought to listen in their times of great pain. The truth is, our words of advice will do little to help the grieving person right after crisis strikes, but the Lord's presence can be of great help. If we can encourage a person to turn to Jesus we do a great work. I remember clearly the strange presence of grace Sharon and I felt during the days and weeks that followed Sarah's death. The Holy Spirit was very near. Sometime people need to be encouraged to turn in that direction and look and listen.
Practically speaking, I have found that it usually takes people several weeks to move past the shock of the trauma and begin to accept the fact of what has happened. During this time I have chosen to just comfort and encourage and not suggest TPM. I will ask the person to listen to the Lord if I hear them speaking lies such as, "I cannot go on without him," or "I am having thoughts of killing myself." Setting silently by during these moments is not good. If the person is spouting lies we can offer help. You can try to logically talk them out of this thinking and may have some success. I would suggest you try to get them to identify what they believe and then turn to Christ for His truth. Afterwards if you still want to tell them your thoughts you can. In these moments, I simply ask them if they would be willing to direct this thinking to the Lord and get His perspective. When people are willing to do this they will usually find truth. After 4-6 weeks or longer, if the person is willing and desires TPM I may offer to do ministry. I have witnessed good results within the 8-12 week period. This does not mean that all of their traumatic pain will be lifted in this moment. However, you can try to deal with the lie-based pain that may have been implanted. When the person is ready, the Lord will carry all the truth-based pain that the person is willing to let go. In many cases the reason the person is unwilling to let the truth-based pain go is due to a lie that says, "If I let it go then the person is really gone, or the event really happened." This denial is a lie and often keeps the person stuck in grief. I do not know how long a person needs to work through the truth-based pain (the truth is that whatever happened did happen and the person has what is left.) Nevertheless, I am convinced that the Lord is willing to carry the truth-based pain if the person is willing to offer it up to Him. How long a time it takes to reach the point of willingness is different from person to person.
Having said all of this, I would not hesitate to do TPM with a person right after the trauma if they asked me to. But in this context I would share with them about the real truth-based pain they are feeling and how it is necessary for them to embrace it and pass through it and eventually come to the place where they can trust the Lord with it. I would not want them to think that the Lord would lift off the real agony that is a natural part of grief, loss and trauma. If they thought that somehow all of their traumatic pain could be lifted in that moment right after the event, then their disappointment of this not happening could be more traumatic. God does not promise to deliver us out of the fire but He will pass through it with us. The truth is, they were traumatized and they are in shock from it. Time will heal some of this and that which remains the Lord will carry in the proper season. Keep in mind that TPM is focused on lie-based pain. If during this journey the enemy plants a seed of deception, whether it is the first day following or years later, the Lord is always ready to reveal truth. However, truth based pain may have to be experienced until the person is ready to let it go. This will not happen shortly following the crisis.